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What You're Paying For

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Going into the 2022 NOLN Operator Survey, I was curious to see how some of the labor challenges might play out in the numbers. Even just about a year out from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, clear trends emerged.

I'm sure I don't need to tell you that COVID disrupted the labor market, in particular how workers view their roles as employees and their loyalties to employers. Anecdotally and within the Operator Survey, shop owners talked about the difficulty in finding and hiring talented workers.

How does that play out in the survey? The most direct result, in my opinion, is in payroll. Operators looked to retain the talent they had, while competing against increasingly enticing offers from big corporate employers down the street. The best way to retain talent is to simply raise wages.

NOLN found in its 2022 survey that the percentage of gross sales going into payroll went up by 3 percent—no small amount, indeed. Starting wages for techs went up as well, as did manager salaries. In fact, in the two-year span of 2020 to 2022, the average manager salary went from just under $50,000 to just above $57,000.

That's a tough cost to take for shops on slim margins. But it just may be the single most beneficial investment to grow revenues, and that's what NOLN sought to demonstrate in this month's feature article. Writer Carol Badaracco Padgett spoke to three operators who have boasted to have excellent, long-term shop managers to see if they could stand up to scrutiny. 

They certainly did, as evidenced by the operators, who could hardly stop listing the ways in which these managers deftly lead customer service, train and develop employees, seek to learn new skills, and boost the shop's bottom line. It's more than just allowing shop owners to sleep well at night. It's about a dedication to quality that marries quality service with each car, no matter how speedy the service. One operator, Dan Newell, went so far as to say that some customers will simply come back another day if his manager, Dustin Carr, isn't working.

Now, this is a magazine dedicated to shop owners and franchisees, so you'll read more about that perspective, rather than how the managers do their managing from day to day. But I hope you'll agree that the value received by spending a bit more on these experts is well-earned. 

And throughout the story, you'll see some personnel data from the 2022 NOLN Operator Survey. I hope it's a helpful comparison tool to help you make sure you keep the talent you've developed.

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